December 1999/January 2000 Issue of the Planet Kansas

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – Update, by Iralee Barnard
Kansas Sierra Elections (and chickens)
, by Craig Wolfe
New Millennium Accountants
, by Steve Baru, Kansas Chapter Chair
Does "Changing Minds" Take Too Long To Save The World?
, by John Kurmann
Stopping Christmas Shopping, by Bruce Alderman
Light Rail Transit In Kansas City?
, by Wayne Sangster
Legislative Forum
, by Dan Bolt
Recycling: It'll Soon Be The Law In Harvey County
, by Mark Berry, The Hutchinson News
Kansas City Area Sierrans Backpack To Johnson's Shut-Ins
, by Bob Wilshire
Water And Toxics--Matters Of Life And Death, by Terry Shistar
A Little Inspiration – Book Review
, by Cindy Berger
Wakarusa News




















Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – Update

By Iralee Barnard


The general draft of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement will be available for public comment from mid-November to January 19. It will also be available on line at <>. Three open house dates have been set, these are: Strong City/Cottonwood Falls - November 30, Wichita - December 1, Lawrence - December 2. Times and meeting rooms will be announced later.

It is doubtful that this plan will accomplish all the desires of the Kansas Sierra Club, but it must be kept in mind that this is only a ten to fifteen year plan. This is very short-term, and a beginning from which to build upon. It is especially important to remember that establishing a Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a VERY BIG accomplishment which was hard won by dedicated and caring individuals, mostly from the environmental and conservation community. The new Preserve now more than ever needs positive support from the people who have always worked hard to promote it.

The Tallgrass Preserve will move ahead, and the Kansas Sierra Club can help accomplish important goals. As always, money is a limiting factor. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve budget for next year is not expected to increase. The Park Service cannot lobby Congress in its own behalf. The bison fence alone is estimated to cost $280,000.

Establishing a lowland prairie along Fox Creek and re-introducing bison to the preserve cannot be implemented until the General Management Plan is approved. Approval should come early next year. Implementation will necessitate additional planning and resources for which there is already limited funding. Immediate changes to the stocking and grazing regime could possibly be agreed on, but requires money to compensate the lease agreement. Funds are also needed elsewhere for basic upkeep and development, for example, of trails, natural resource inventory and monitoring, invasive weed management, historical buildings, public programs and interpretive displays. It also takes money allocated by the U.S. Congress for additional personnel to do these things. Partnership with Kansas Sierra could help in many ways to meet these goals.

Without a doubt progress will be slow. Land ownership and management is a new roll for the National Park Trust, the private conservation organization that owns the 10,894 acre preserve, but their Washington office recently took an important step by forming a local Kansas board to assist with management. This unique public/private relationship for the National Park Service means that a whole new protocol must be established in confronting all the management issues.

Kansas Sierrans have always had great interest in the Tallgrass Preserve. I hope this report gives great optimism for the Preserve. It is a special place and will grow to be even better with all our help. I will try to provide updates from the Park Service on when and what the Kansas Sierra can do to see the dream become a reality.

For more information call National Park Service at 316-273-6034, or National Park Trust at 316-273-8139.


Back to Table of Contents





Kansas Sierra Elections (and chickens)

By Craig Wolfe

Inserted into this issue are the ballots for the election of the Kansas Chapter Executive Committee (ExCom), and, if you live in Kansas City, for the Kanza Group. As you may have noticed, we have nine Chapter candidates! That's four more than we need to fill our five slots. Usually we are scrambling to find enough folks to run so that we have the required number (2 more candidates than slots to fill)..

So why the plethora of Chapter candidates? The simple answer is that more folks are realizing that what we are doing on the state (chapter) level really does make a difference. If we wern't making an impact, I don't think many would care. But since we are, more of our volunteer leaders want to make sure it's done right…they want to make sure that we get the absolute most out of the relatively small amount of resources (time, energy, money, effort) that we have available to protect the environment in Kansas.

And, believe me, it is definitely a David and Goliath act in the state of Kansas.

But, at least this year, it seems to be harder to inspire the same depth of involvement at the group (local) level. The Kanza Group, for instance, has 6 slots to fill, but could only raise 6 candidates. Thus, in this election, according to our bylaws, we can only elect four ExCom members for the Kanza Group.

Several factors may be involved here. But perhaps number one -- I happen to know that each and every one of the Chapter candidates have a very deep commitment to the environment. They've been around for awhile. These are no spring chickens. And, as usually happens, Group candidates, especially new ones, are relative spring chickens. SO, WE NEED MORE SPRING CHICKENS. We need the new blood that new spring chickens bring to an organization.

The prescription for more spring chickens is simple. The old chickens have to make a ruckus in the hen house. We have to pick our issues and make a difference. We need to make so much noise in the enviro hen house that others notice. Politicians notice. Company CEO's notice. Bureaucrats notice. But the key is that Sierra Club members notice, and the public notices. These last two categories will then say, "This is worth doing. This is worth my being involved. This can be fun."

Back to Table of Contents




New Millennium Accountants

By Steve Baru, Chair Kansas Chapter

This is the time of the year when many of us pause to reflect upon the past and plan for the future. With the New Year the calendar turns to 2000. There are those that think the world may end on the eve of the New Year and therefore won’t be spending time doing any future planning. I have to admit I feel a little more insecure about the demise of our existence than I used to, but that has nothing to do with the calendar or spirituality; in my case, it has to do with two Kansas Republican Senators - the two who recently voted their party line against a nuclear test ban treaty. Do those two ever vote against the Republican Party line? Of course they’ll tell you that whatever is good for the Republicans is good for Kansas. Yeah, Right. And Ronald Reagan was right to when he said, "all the waste from a nuclear power plant could be stored under a desk." For the moment I suggest we proceed as if there will be a tomorrow.

Therefore we are not relieved of our responsibility to plan for the future. What is our role in the future? The answer I like comes from a Chicago speech made by Stewart Udall: "Over the long haul on this planet, it is the ecologists, and not the bookkeepers of business, who are the ultimate accountants" June 9, 1970. We are the credit department of the Kansas environment, agricultural and business community. We are the credit department for planet Kansas. If we do our job correctly we are good for business, good for agriculture and good for public health. A business sells it services and without sales, fails. So the incentive is to sell, sell, sell and a sales force are hired to do that. With blinders on the eyes, this sales force is narrowly focused and has but one job to do. But what good is it to the organization if the sales force sells to buyers who can’t pay? What looks good on paper at the moment could bring bankruptcy sooner or later.

The Kansas Farm Bureau is focused on growing and selling their commodity. The more they grow the more they have to sell. They are focused and move with purpose through the assembly of our elected officials to make sure nothing stops their progress. They enjoy great control of both houses of the Kansas legislature and I can make a great case for how they control our present Governor. In spite of all that advantage, the Kansas family farmer is having a tough time surviving. Why is that? My answer is that the credit department hasn’t been doing its job watching over certain groups of the ag community. They get anything and everything they want, and little is done to check to see if it is good idea. Since they own the politicians in Topeka, it is up to us to check the accountability of their activities. Kansas needs us, and the farm community needs us.

For example, last year the sales tax exemption on pesticides in Kansas was 37.5 million dollars. Today Kansas is having a budget shortfall but Topeka would not dare to even consider rethinking that exemption. Instead I hear a lot of talk about doing away with the food tax credit. Most of the people that can qualify for that credit really need it. One change that could be made to this credit is that it be based on federal adjusted gross income instead of Kansas adjusted gross income that would avoid abuses of it. More importantly we as the credit department need to educate the public including farmers that there are studies proving that their bottom line profitability would improve by forgoing the use of Atrazene. They lose more money buying that poison than they would lose to weeds in their crop. The dangers of Atrazene to public health are well documented.

Transportation in Kansas needs help, and a giant new highway bill was passed last year. We the accountants shirked our responsibly when we failed to get involved. Of course, the Governor didn’t invite any environmentalist onto his blue ribbon panel last year, whose job it was to make recommendations to him. Again Kansas proved it needed the Sierra Club and other environmentalists. K-10 between Johnson County and Lawrence carries more traffic than it can handle and more than the I-70 turnpike. Money and effort should have been allocated for mass transportation in that corridor, buses or fixed rail, a perfect spot for such help. Many people have told me that they would love to use a bus between the University of Kansas campuses in Overland Park and Lawrence. However, there is not one bus or bus route. The finances of mass transportation in that corridor? We answer that adding highway lanes is more costly in the long run. Don’t forget highways are a government subsidy.

Issues of business policy and urban growth need us to be the accountants. We can show the economics are on the side of businesses that exercise environmental responsibility. We have the studies that can help communities lower budgets and taxes and still have smart growth.

To do a better job the next 1,001 years, we need to sharpen our grass roots pencils and analyze and publicize our conclusions. To do that, we need to better utilize the talent in our own organizations. In our membership we have clergy, scientists, lawyers, judges, economists, city and county government officials. We have more members from the farm community than ever before. We have architects and planners. Kansas needs the talents of all these and many others.

I ask you to call your local Sierra Club and volunteer your services. Kansas needs your help. Please make it a Y2K resolution to get involved with your local Sierra Club and share your talents. The healthiest communities in the future will be the ones with the healthiest Sierra Clubs.

Back to Table of Contents




Does "Changing Minds" Take Too Long To Save The World?

By John Kurmann

In past issues of this newsletter, both the estimable Terry Shistar and myself have done our best to challenge the "environmental" movement's past and present approach. Summed up, that approach is:

Discover (or suspect) that something undesirable is occurring -- air/water is being polluted, topsoil is being depleted, forests are being clearcut, and so on -- then react to this by pressing for some sort of government legislation to address the problem, whether by regulating or banning the undesirable behavior (in most cases, the former). This doesn't cover every single thing that's been done or is being done, but I think it's fair to say it covers the vast majority.

We have pointed out that, not only is this reactionary--it waits to act until something harmful is already happening, and damage has already been done--it also serves to institutionalize the behavior. You don't need to set up a program of regulation and management for an activity that has stopped, after all. And what about the harmful things we don't even realize are happening because we don't understand the system being damaged?

This approach starts from the premise that people are always going to be doing something to muck up the planet, so the best we can hope to do is chase around behind them, put out the fires we can (when we're allowed to), and try to control the countless others. It's clear to me that our fire brigade is much too small to keep up, though, and in many cases we don't even discover a fire has been raging until years after it started. Also, a home that's been burned can never be restored to what it once was.

We have suggested a different approach, one based on the concept of changing minds. In short, if someone's mind has changed, you won't have to go around behind them putting out the fires they start, because they will do their best to avoid starting fires in the first place, and they will rush to put out any they do accidentally start.

A common response to this suggestion is that it will just take too long--we don't have time to convince billions of individuals to change their own lives. Our only hope is to force them to change by forbidding them to do what they're doing (laws and regulations) or by making it too expensive (fees, pollution taxes, etc.). Is that true, though?

Right now there are estimated to be just over 6 billion people alive as part of earth. I'm going to make what I think is a low guess and assume that there are already 500,000 with changed minds worldwide. Let's see what they can do:

If each of those 500,000 people commit themselves to changing one other person's mind over the next year (a mind a year seems reasonable to me), then there will be one million changed minds a year from now.
And if each of those one million changes one mind over the following year, there will be two million two years from now.

And if those two million do the same, there will be four million three years from now.

And if those four million follow suit, there will be eight million four years from now--eight million out of the more than six BILLION humans that will most likely then be alive.

Pretty slow, eh? If this pattern continues, if we are only so successful as to each change one mind a year, then how long would it take to change everyone's mind?

Just fourteen years. Do the math.

Five years from now, those eight million would become sixteen.

Six years from now, those sixteen would be thirty-two.

Seven years from now, those thirty-two would be sixty-four.

Eight years from now, those sixty-four would be one hundred and twenty-eight.

Nine years from now, those one hundred and twenty-eight would be two hundred and fifty-six.

Ten years from now, those two hundred and fifty-six would be five hundred and twelve.

Eleven years from now, those five hundred and twelve would be one and twenty-four--one billion, twenty-four million, that is.

Twelve years from now, those one and twenty-four would be two and forty-eight.

Thirteen years from now, those two and forty-eight would be four and ninety-six.

And just fourteen years from now, those four and ninety-six would be eight and one hundred and ninety-two--eight billion, one hundred and ninety-two million.

The world's current human population is estimated to be just under six billion, so, even allowing population growth of another two billion-plus people, we could change the minds of all of them in only fourteen years if we just will commit ourselves to each changing one mind a year. Is that doable? Is that too much to ask? I think we could do more.

No, changing people's minds alone will not save the world, but people with truly changed minds will lead truly changed lives. Changing minds isn't an end in and of itself. In my opinion, though, it is the foundation we must lay in order to begin saving the world. Think of the human creative potential that would be unleashed by having hundreds of millions, then billions, of people setting their minds to figuring out new, sustainable ways to live.

We also don't need to set our goal at changing every single mind, for two reasons: First, the tribal peoples of the world are already living well without destroying the world, near as I can tell (though I don't know how many of them there are). Second, there's no one right way to live. Quite a few of us (the people of civilization) must change if we're going to save the world, but not all.

And can any piece or package of legislation, any presidential initiative, or any armed revolutionary movement hope to save the world more quickly? The saving of the world cannot be imposed, from above, on people whose unchanged minds resist it. How many years have we been trying to do it that way so far? Are we anywhere near succeeding?

Changing minds may not save the world in time, but I don't see how any other strategy that has been proposed could possibly work more quickly.

And that's a challenge.

[While I wrote this piece, my thanks go to Daniel Quinn for pointing out just how quickly changing minds can change the world.]

To contact John Kurmann, call 816-753-6081 or send an e-mail to


Back to Table of Contents





Stopping Christmas Shopping

Winning the Fight Against Holiday Consumerism

By Bruce Alderman


The old Christmas carols may proclaim "Joy to the world" or "Peace on Earth", but for most Americans, the Christmas season is not peaceful at all. The stress begins building the day after Thanksgiving, which has become known as the official start of the "holiday shopping season", a season which has nearly taken over the Christmas holiday, and is beginning to threaten Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

This annual glut of consumerism is bad for the spirit, bad for the wallet, and bad for the earth. Is it possible to make a break from consumerism and find peace and joy in the holiday season? Yes! Here are fifteen suggestions to help you peel off the outer layer of commercialism and uncover a more enjoyable holiday.

1. Turn off the television. The TV is the chief vehicle for retailers trying to turn our hopes, fears, and desires into purchases. Furthermore, during the holiday season, otherwise sober news reporters become cheerleaders for consumption. More sales, we are told, means a merrier Christmas. You can fight this attitude by disallowing it in your home. Turn off the television and discover the elusive peace that the holiday promises. Without this outside influence telling you what you should buy, you will have more time to spend creating gifts that your family and friends will truly enjoy.

2. Give baked goods. Food is appreciated by almost everyone, and homemade food is a rare treat for many people these days. If you have some skill at baking, you can create a gift that is a perfect fit for everyone, and you won't have to fight the crowds at the mall.

3. Give handmade or handcrafted items. Can you sew patterns on sweatshirts? Can you design calendars on your computer? Then you can create unique Christmas gifts that aren't sold in any stores. The possibilities are endless, from tissue box covers to wood carvings to chef's aprons with matching potholders. Anything you can make, you can give as gifts. A warning though, if choose this route: Start early, or you'll end up making your holiday even more stressful than usual.

4. Give the gift of service. Do you have any particular knowledge or abilities that could be useful to others? You can make gift certificates which can be redeemed for your expertise. Are you a computer wizard? Offer certificates good for an evening or daylong "training session" to a friend or relative who is just learning to use their computer. Are you a genius with automobiles? Give certificates good for a free oil and filter change, fluid check, etc.

5. Paint a picture or write a poem. Are you artistically inclined? Do you have a way with words? Put these skills to work in making your Christmas gifts. You'll create a truly unique gift that everyone will know comes from the heart.

6. Collect memories. If you're not a skilled artist, you can still give gifts in words and pictures. You can put together a photo album of Christmas memories, or collect favorite Christmas stories from family members, and make booklets for each member. These gifts should satisfy the adults on your Christmas list, but what do you do about kids? Kids want store-bought gifts -- and lots of them. Or do they? Actually, thousands of parents have discovered that the gift of their time is worth more to their kids than any store-bought gift could ever be.

7. Take a family daytrip. In the last week or two before Christmas, pick an open day and get out of town. Get far away from the crowded shopping centers, and spend some time enjoying nature. Visit a state park or a nature center while the majority of the public are fighting the crowds at the malls.

8. Make a craft project together. This can be fun and educational at the same time. A birdhouse, for example, is simple to build and can be made out of almost any scrap material. You should be able to find instructions at your local library. And, once made, the birdhouse can give hours of entertainment to the entire family as you see how many varieties of birds feed from it through the year. For a more complex family project, try making a telescope or a weather center.

9. Give used toys to charity. Most parents are surprised at how enthusiastic their kids get when they are presented with this idea. Most kids will quite willingly let go of the toys they no longer play with, if they know the toys will be given to kids who are less fortunate than they are. At the same time, they are learning valuable lessons about giving, and about life.

10. Host the grandchildren for a week. One retired farming couple, for their Christmas gift, gave each of their grandchildren an invitation to "Camp Grandma and Grandpa." Then, the following summer, they found a week when all the grandchildren could attend, and they brought them all together for a week on the farm. The cousins all got to know each other better, and everyone had a good time. This was also a gift to the parents. A relatively new Christmas tradition is the tree. Although Christmas trees were introduced into England and America only about 150 years ago, the tree is for many the centerpiece of the holiday season. How can you enjoy your tree without killing it?

11. Buy an artificial tree. It won't shed on your carpet, and you don't have to throw it out after Christmas. What's more, the tree that you didn't cut down is free to continue the important work of removing toxins from our air. If you are looking for a real Christmas challenge, you have another option.

12. Buy a living tree. Nurseries can sell you trees with the roots attached, so you can plant them after Christmas is over. Keeping the tree alive does require some work, so you'll need to do your homework before trying this. Some of the basics to keep in mind are: It's a good idea to dig the hole for the tree before the ground freezes. This means buying the tree some time in advance so you can measure its roots to find out what size of hole you'll need to dig. Trees are adversely affected by sharp changes in temperature, so you'll need to keep the tree in a room which is close to the outside temperature, or the tree may go into shock when you take it outside to plant it. Ask someone at the nursery for more tips on buying living Christmas trees, if you want to try this option.

No discussion of Christmas is complete without a mention of Christmas dinner. Americans tend to overeat during any holiday season, and Christmas is no exception. At the same time, many people throughout the world go hungry. Americans' overconsumption of food is not healthy for us, and it is not healthy for the rest of the world.

13. Eat smaller portions. There are two ways to do this. You can prepare less food to begin with, or you can invite more people to your table. Do you know a foreign student at the local community college? Invite him or her to share Christmas dinner with your family. You'll have fewer leftovers, and at the same time you can learn about another culture.

14. Eat simple foods. For a really novel approach, try eating nothing on Christmas day except fresh fruit and whole-grain bread. You'll give your digestive system a break and still get the important nutrients your body needs. You'll save money, too, which you can donate to a hunger relief organization.

Finally, for those who want to make the ultimate break with American consumerism . . .

15. Take an ecovacation. Visit the jungles of Costa Rica or take an African safari. You probably won't save any money by choosing this option, but you'll be getting away from the consumer mentality which is so pervasive in this country during the Christmas season, and you'll have the opportunity to see another side of Christmas.

These fifteen suggestions are only a few of the vast range of possibilities for getting away from the commercial side of Christmas. With a little imagination and creativity, you can discover your own ways to make a break from consumerism and find peace and joy in the holiday season.


Back to Table of Contents




Light Rail Transit In Kansas City?

by Wayne Sangster

In the autumn of 1998 I enrolled in a course on urban mass transportation taught by Professor Alan Black at the Edwards Campus (in Johnson County) of the University of Kansas. One of the things I learned in the course is that transportation planning is not easy. Accordingly, this discussion of the wisdom of building light rail transit (LRT) in the Kansas City area is presented with some trepidation; Professor Black, who wrote the textbook for his course [Black (1995)], calls it a "murky" topic. This book has been used a guide in writing what follows.

Rather recently efforts have progressed toward forming a bistate transportation authority in the Kansas City area. Johnson and Wyandotte Counties would be incorporated into the existing Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (from which Johnson County withdrew in 1981). Good news! Commuter rail on the Kansas side has progressed to the preliminary engineering stage, but LRT on the Missouri side has had tough going (former Mayor Cleaver took a dim view of it a while back). Now new proposals have been touted. One would put LRT underground in the Bethany Falls limestone layer for 3 1/2 miles from 1st Street to 18th Street through downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Another proposal by activist Clay Chastain was defeated by Missouri voters 63 to 37 percent in November.

The trend in the last few years has been to rail in many cities in the United States. Because of the complexity of transportation planning any proposed LRT project should be subjected to intense scrutiny. Cities build LRT because they want to be like the other cities having glamorous new rail systems (penis envy?). They think rail will make them "big league." But cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia grew up with rail, and other cities like Kansas City where the streetcar tracks were torn up long ago and that have low population densities can't hope to easily recast themselves in the image of rail-transit rich cities. Here are some pros and cons.

Professor Black devotes 14 pages in his book to the rail vs. bus debate, and I can only hit the highlights here. Several writers have alleged that planning studies for recent rail projects were manipulated in order to justify the proposals. Pushkarev et al (1982) identified 10 cities in the U.S. that were good candidates for light rail, plus several others that were marginal. Pickrell (1984) "corrected" this study and concluded that "the number of urban travel corridors ... where constructing light rail lines can be justified by realistic estimates of their likely costs and attendant benefits ... appears to be extremely limited." Gomez-Ibanez (1985) warned that "other cities considering LRT should be skeptical of claims that light rail will reduce transit costs, improve service, or increase ridership significantly."

The most publicized transit project in recent decades is the BART system in the San Francisco Bay Area. Peter Hall (1982) included it as a case in his book entitled "Great Planning Disasters." Webber (1976) called it a mistake. He found that BART riders were heavily subsidized and that it would be cheaper to transport all BART riders by automobile. Energy efficiency is often given as a reason for building light rail. Some data from an article by Kulash (1982) sheds some light on this subject.

The following are the program energies (the overall energy use in building, maintaining, operating, and using the system) for each mode (after massaging the Kulash numbers a bit): Mode Average Number of Occupants Program Energy per vehicle and BTU per passenger-mile.

Automobile (assuming 19.5 mpg) - 1.2 people at 8,090 BTU.

Bus - 11.5 people at 6,570 BTU.

Light rail (per car) - 20 people at 10,130 BTU.

Commuter rail (per car) - 40 people at 9,190 BTU.

The vehicle occupancy for automobiles given above is the Kansas City average. The automobile program energy obviously depends on the assumed fuel mileage: for 11.5 mpg and 27.5 mpg the numbers are 11,850 and 6,690 BTU per passenger mile, respectively. The average occupancies used in the above by Kulash for rail are on the low side of the ranges he gives; one can manipulate them to get a more favorable result for rail. Bus has a clear advantage over light rail; it is more efficient than automobiles using these numbers; light rail is not. Constructing busways or designating bus lanes should be considered as an alternative to light rail. (As an aside, the propulsion energy alone for an automobile is about 47 times that for riding a bicycle. One can get about 8 miles per Snickers bar on a bike, or the equivalent of 900 or so mpg.)

New light rail systems (including vehicles) in the U.S. have cost (in current dollars) from $176 million in Sacramento (1987) to $877 million in Los Angeles (1990). The average weekday ridership in 1992 or 1993 was 23,400 in Sacramento and 34,200 in LA. Subways are even more expensive. A subway project in LA ran into construction problems causing huge cost overruns and the eventual shut-down of the project. Rail systems have the advantage of a more comfortable ride: steel is smoother than pavement and trains are less likely to get into stop-and-go traffic. A subway in the limestone layer under downtown KC would certainly have the latter advantage. Another advantage of LRT (but not commuter rail) is that it runs on electricity from power plants fueled by coal or natural gas, which does not have to be imported. Bloated military costs associated with defending the oil-rich countries in the Middle East should be considered in figuring the operating expenses of buses running on diesel fuel.

LRT might have a place in KC if part of it could be economically put underground downtown; commuter rail might also have a place (like the proposed Johnson County line and along the Amtrak route to Pleasant Hill). But buses would still be essential; enough rail can't be built to serve everyone. A route to the airport would be shaky financially; even LaGuardia Airport in New York City does not have a rail system. Professor Black ends his discussion of rail vs. bus with these words: "To summarize, both rail and bus systems have particular advantages, and neither dominates in all respects. The choice should depend on the conditions of the individual situation and should be made after thorough planning studies and public debate. The major factor working against rail is its construction cost; the major factor in its favor is its prestige value. Probably the romantic appeal of rail has swayed too many people; there are good bus alternatives that have not been selected as often as they should be."


Black, Alan: Urban Mass Transportation Planning, (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995).

Gomez-Ibanez, Jose A.: "A Dark Side to Light Rail? The Experience of Three New Transit Systems," Journal of American Planning Association, vol. 51, no. 3 (Summer 1985), pp. 337-351.

Hall, Peter: Great Planning Disasters (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), chap. 5.

Kulash, Damian J.: "Energy Efficiency: Which Modes, Which Programs"" in Herbert S. Levinson and Robert A. Weant, eds., Urban Transportation; Perspectives and Prospects (Westport, CT: Eno Foundation for Transportation, 1982), pp. 86-95.

Pickrell, Don H.,: "How Many More Rail Systems Does the U.S. Need?" Paper presented at annual conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, New York City, October 1984.

Pushkarev, Boris S., with Jeffrey M. Zupan and Robert S. Cumella: Urban Rail in America: An Exploration of Criteria for Fixed-Guideway Transit (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1982).

Webber, Melvin W.: "The BART Experience--What Have We Learned?" The Public Interest, no. 45 (Fall 1976), pp. 79-108.


Back to Table of Contents




Legislative Forum

By Dan Bolt

Occurring just a few days before the beginning of the Legislative session in Topeka, Legislators from the South Central Kansas area are invited to the Southwind Group's General Meeting to discuss upcoming legislation. The meeting is a chance for members of the Sierra Club to convey their concerns about the environment. It is also a chance for Legislators and Sierra Club members to meet one another in a more relaxed atmosphere. Always in the past, this has been found to be a valuable meeting.

This year the Legislative Forum will occur on Friday, January 14, 2000 at the Great Plains Nature Center, located at 29th Street and Woodlawn in Wichita. The Southwind Group meets at 6:30 p.m. for a social hour. Pop and Pizza will be available during the social hour. The program with the Legislators begins at 7:30 p.m.

Back to Table of Contents




Recycling: It'll Soon Be The Law In Harvey County

Newton, Halstead, Sedgwick have passed mandatory recycling ordinances to reduce pressure on landfill; others expected to follow

By Mark Berry-The Hutchinson News

The following article was printed with the permission of the Hutchinson News.

The city of Newton is expected to embark on a mandatory recycling program between late October and late November. Halstead and Sedgwick have also passed a mandatory recycling ordinance. Other communities in Harvey County are expected to follow, said Craig Simons, county administrator. They will be forced to if they want to keep sending their trash to the local landfill.

Just before the Harvey County Recycling Center opens in mid- to late-October, the county commission will pass a resolution that will prohibit certain recyclables from being dumped in the landfill, Simons said. "They won't enforce it at first. After a period of time, the landfill people probably will refuse a load being taken to the landfill if it has recyclables," Simons said.

The county projects the landfill to be filled up by October, 2001.

"What we have is a landfill that is getting nearly full," said Newton City Manager Jim Heinicke. "In the future, we will pay top dollar to haul that trash somewhere else. We are trying to limit the amount of waste that has to be landfilled."

Newton Director of Community Development Mark Detter said that when the recycling program begins, the amount of trash hauled to the landfill should decrease by 20 percent. That number may go up as more people get in the habit of recycling, he said.

Heinicke said last week that mandatory recycling will begin in 30 to 60 days in Newton, a town of just over 18,100 residents. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Fredonia may be the only other community in Kansas with mandatory curbside recycling.

Detter said the city council is expected to pass an ordinance Oct. 12 that would outline how recyclables and refuse are collected. If the resident doesn't sort trash and recyclables, charges can be filed in municipal court. Detter said the ordinance won't be enforced immediately.

"To begin with, we will try to work this out with citizens and educate them," Detter said. "There may be some legitimate reasons they aren't doing it. We will judge that on a case-by-case basis." Glass, most household plastic bottles and aluminum cans will be placed in one 14-gallon recycling container. Cardboard and newspaper will be placed in another 14-gallon container. All other trash will go in a 95-gallon trash can. The city will provide recycling containers for all residents.

Detter said the garbage collector will use a couple methods to ensure people are recycling, one of them being "spot checks" to see if recyclables are in the landfill-bound trash.

Eddie Lorenzo, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, said that trash is no longer private when it hits the curb. "That makes me feel uneasy, but there are many court cases that say once you put trash your out on the curb, it's free for inspection by law enforcement or other governmental entities," Lorenzo said.

Detter said the city has begun an education campaign that includes television commercials and brochures. Officials have held meetings on the subject at local elementary schools and spoken at senior-citizen centers. "Overall, the vast majority of people understand that recycling has to happen. We've seen very little objection to it at all," Detter said. "It saves us money in the long run. People generally are committed to saving the environment and preserving resources."

City commissioners Todd Loescher, Willis Heck and Grant Scott said they have not heard any negative feedback on the mandatory recycling policy.


Back to Table of Contents




Kansas City Area Sierrans Backpack To Johnson's Shut-Ins

By Bob Wilshire

Members of the Kanza Group and the Thomas Hart Benton Group (Ozark Chapter, Missouri) enjoyed a great fall backpacking trip at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park on the weekend of October 16. Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park is near Ironton in the southeast corner of Missouri. The trip was along the 12.5-mile Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail that runs from Taum Sauk Mountain State Park west to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. Ten people made the trip -- six women and four men. There were a number of new faces in the group, who said they learned of the trip through the newsletter or the outings brochure.

The weather was warm and sunny on Saturday, but clouds moved in by late afternoon, and rain fell in buckets at dark. Fortunately, dinner was over, so everyone just dove into their tents. A long day of hiking on a rugged trail made the early bed time quite welcome. Sunday morning brought cooler temperatures and a pleasant dampness to the air as the group made its way on to the Shut-Ins visitor center.

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, like all Missouri State Parks, has excellent facilities. There is a well-maintained campground, showers, store, restrooms, change rooms for hikers, and rangers on duty. Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri at 1,772 feet, also has a well-maintained primitive campground. The "shut-ins" are unusual rock formations formed by erosion from the waters of the Black River.

There are plans to link the Ozark Trail in Missouri with the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas to create the Trans-Ozark Trail, which will then run from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to St. Louis.

Back to Table of Contents




Water And Toxics--Matters Of Life And Death

More on Vision and Programs

By Terry Shistar

This semester, I have really been enjoying teaching a seminar based on readings concerned with worldview and "environmental ethics". It has given me a chance to reread some of my favorite books and look at the way the authors' ideas relate to each other.

Among the books we're reading this semester are Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach. The two books bring different things to the class. Ecotopia, written first in 1975, portrays Callenbach's vision of how humans might live sustainably on the earth. Ecotopia Emerging, written later in 1981, describes how Ecotopia came about. It is packed with ideas for social and political change.

The students were given one homework assignment connected with Ecotopia Emerging--list ideas for accomplishing change that are used by the founders of Ecotopia. The ideas could be specific ("Drink at your own risk" signs on faucets) or generalized (use popular music to convey the message.) The box that accompanies this article contains 57 ideas I abstracted from the book. (The students came up with others I missed, so the book contains a truly bountiful supply of ideas.)

I'm offering these 57 ideas suggested by Callenbach in his novel as a starting place for some real brainstorming. I also offer them as examples of the importance of vision. One of the most difficult things about recognizing the importance of vision as opposed to programs is that vision appears to be passive, "not doing anything." Perhaps these examples from Ecotopia Emerging can clarify the concept of changing minds.

Ideas like do-it-yourself pollution test kits and "Drink at your own risk" signs on water fountains were designed to increase public awareness of how pollution is affecting each person. The Survivalist Party taught people how to make inexpensive solar cells so that they could be independent of utility companies. Even ideas that might be classified as programs rather than vision had a major goal of teaching people that other ways of living are possible--car-free zones are in this category.

My favorite idea, though, is the "shadow government". Volunteers followed state officials around all day, criticizing their actions and proposing alternatives. (Or maybe that's only second to the "cancer commandos".) Reading the book and compiling the list inspired me to think of more--for example, let's welcome people to Kansas with signs announcing, "Welcome to Kansas, home of the dirtiest water in the country!" So read the book, think up your own ideas, and take them to the next meeting of your Sierra Club group!

As the leader of the Survivalist Party told her followers as they were on the verge of forming a new nation, "…we may be tempted to think that our political actions are 'causing' change. Of course political acts may facilitate some new developments and inhibit others; they are important. It is not a mere detail when a sweeping new law is passed, or one government is replaced by another. But such changes are always the expression of a complex web of interconnected pressures which flow from the daily life of a society….So the paradox of these times, my friends, is that our new Ecotopian world already exists, just under the official surface." And in Kansas, it's a bit deeper.

Ideas from Ecotopia Emerging:

Back to Table of Contents




A Little Inspiration – Book Review

Gaviotas: A Village To Reinvent The World

By Cindy Berger


Here in Kansas it’s easy to get overwhelmed by bad environmental news: agricultural chemicals in our surface water, pollution from corporate hog farms, never-ending urban sprawl, and so on. It’s a constant battle just to keep current environmental laws from being weakened, and the opposition we face is usually bigger and better financed. Most of us spend our time reacting to the environmental crisis of the moment, rather than setting a proactive example of finding a better way to live. When you feel in need of a little inspiration, pick up a truly remarkable book, Gaviotas: A Village To Reinvent The World, by Alan Weisman.

In the mid 1960’s, Paulo Lugari, a native of Colombia, took an airplane flight to the eastern side of the Andes, where the country’s barren, savannas lay. It is one of the world’s harshest regions with highly acidic, leached soils so poor that even the coca plant will not grow. Most people saw only the desolation there, but Lugari had a vision. He envisioned a place that could ease the severely overcrowded and violence-filled lives of western Colombians. He saw a better way of life.

Lugari took over an abandoned road construction camp in the savannah, 16 hours away from any major city, and named his new establishment Gaviotas. Over the next three decades he invited scientists, artists, rural peasants, urban street kids and the native Guahibo Indians to join him at Gaviotas and share his vision. Everyone was given a project with the instruction, "Just figure out how to build the future of civilization from grass, sun and water." Among their many inventions were windmills that converted the mild tropical breezes into energy, solar collectors that worked in the rain, soil-free systems that raised edible and medicinal crops, solar kettles to sterilize drinking water, and ultra-efficient pumps to tap deep aquifers. (The pumps were powered by the children playing on seesaws and swings). Those who came to Gaviotas were so happy with their new lives that they rarely left.

In the beginning, Gaviotas was able to function with the help of grants from various organizations. Eventually, they were forced to survive on their own. The community planted millions of Caribbean pines as a renewable crop and sold pine resin to finance their existence. They also got an unexpected side benefit. Interspersed among the pines, grew shrubs, saplings and other plants. Sheltered by the pine trees, a diverse, indigenous tropical forest with an abundance of wildlife quickly developed. As with their other discoveries, they shared their new knowledge with the neighboring villages, who had already benefited from using Gaviotas windmills and water pumps. The community planned to give seedlings to their neighbors and eventually create a rain forest all across the savannah.

By the mid 1990’s, Gaviotas had become self-sufficient in energy and continued to move toward complete sustainability. Lugari still had dreams and plans -- factories to produce musical instruments, bicycles, guava preserves, and drinking water, and to raise coffee in the shade of the newly generated rain forest. Most importantly, he dreamed of a research facility to study medicinal plants. His hope was that the plants could be sold at large enough profits to convince Colombian coca growers to switch crops, thereby saving tropical forests and the native Indians.

It’s important to note that Alan Weisman’s book does not address an all-important factor: population growth. None of our efforts at living sustainably will matter if we continue to produce more humans resulting in less of everything else. We need diversity to survive. Also, we must realize that although the Gaviotas community found a way of life that worked well for them, it would not necessarily work elsewhere. However, certain aspects of the experience in Gaviotas can be applied to any group, urban or rural, that seeks to be sustainable.

Each person who came to the community enriched the group in some way with their skills and creativity. The community functioned through cooperation, not competition. Each job in the community was equally important, from trash collector to physician. Children learned by interacting with the community artists and workers and were encouraged to develop their interests.

The community was adaptable, enabling them to continue to survive through government obstacles and the ongoing threat of violence from various Colombian groups. Technology was not viewed as the enemy, but rather an important tool to be used to improve their quality of life. Most importantly, it takes a vision that is shared by all members of the community, and an abundance of imagination, creativity and perseverance.

As author Daniel Quinn often says, "There is no one right way to live." It is not necessary to seek out a deserted, isolated area when trying to forge a more sustainable way of life. Whether urban or rural residents, we must find our own way of developing and participating in sustainable communities. Alan Weisman’s book gives inspiration to those who have a vision of a better way of life and are willing to try to make it happen.

Back to Table of Contents




Wakarusa News:


On November 9th, the topic of the Wakarusa Group's General Meeting was urban sprawl. Larry Kipp from our Lawrence SmartGrowth Network, Carrie Moore from local League of Women Voters and Dr. Alan Black from KU's Dept of Urban Planning were excellent panelists.Questions were plentiful and the discussion was lively.

Our next gen. mtg. is tentatively Jan.19th with the topic to be announced.

December 6th from 7-9 PM, the Wakarusa Group will co-sponsor, along with the Douglas Co. Preservation Alliance, a Town Meeting. Spearheading this is the Jayhawk Audobon Society. The hot topic is the proposed resort to be built on the beautiful wild area known as Lands End at Clinton Lake State Park. This is not only a favored fishing ground to our beloved bald eagles, but a deeply wooded, hilly penninsula with trails that climb toward a beautiful view of the water. It is one of the few places in the county where traffic cannot be heard. The meeting will be in the Lawrence Public Library with representatives there to field questions from concerned citizens. E-mail Alison Reber: or call Carey (785)841-9594 (Carey does email, too:

December 9 @ 7:30 PM

Exec. Comm. mtg. to plan our focus & activities. We are searching for workers. Call Bruce Plenk (785)749-3579.

Meanwhile there's a lot of threat from KDOT in Douglas and surrounding counties that the Wakarusa Group is very concerned about. .There are many grassroots initiatives popping up as KDOT's freeway building plans are announced to the public. The Wakarusa Group is channeling questions and concerns to committees in these grassroots initiatives. There's plenty of concern and plenty of work to be done around planful growth and sprawl control. Please call or e-mail Carey and get involved. (785) 841-9594 or email:

Back to Table of Contents